Austrian footpaths: the best in the world? Or just the best signs?

Robert Pimm
Robert Pimm

I have been walking Austrian footpaths for decades.  They form a wonderful network, and the signs are a wonder in themselves.  

How beautiful can a footpath be?  Austria’s are amongst the best.

I particularly enjoy the country’s system of footpath signs.  Over the past three years here I have photographed many of them.  I reproduce a selection here.

Things to watch for

As you wander Austria, you may wish to pay attention to:

  • nature – many signs are worn or overgrown or both, as wind and weather reclaim them.  This is usually a good thing;
  • texture: the interplay between sign, tree (or rock) and background is often sublime;
  • seasons: some, but not all, footpaths can be enjoyed all-year round.

Each of the following pictures represents a moment of perfection, somewhere in Austria.  If you know where, feel free to comment.

This squirrel is urging people to care for nature

Any surface will do for a footpath sign

But most signs are on trees…

Would you rather call the “Alpine emergency” or “Euro-emergency” number?

A “change of direction” indicator

More modern signs may also show footpath numbers…

… or combine numerous technologies

Some signs on rocks

So this is footpath 404 or 42 (red and white).  But what is the number of the blue and white path?

A superhighway of three separate paths

How many years of tree growth has it taken to cover these signs?

Multiple signs…

A spring day above the retreating snow line.  Paths in every direction

“Schneealm” means “Snow Pasture”

This track-sign is spookily like the Ukrainian (or Lower Austrian) flag

In “Three Men in a Boat”, Jerome K Jerome complains that marble gravestones will not weather, thus robbing them of charm.  Weatherproof walking signs pose similar aesthetic challenges.

I don’t think this is a walking sign but it deserves inclusion

No walking sign here either but a magnificent bouquet of colour

If you are now feeling a strong urge to venture out and go for a walk, do not worry: this is normal

Another beautifully weathered sign (“The Königstetten Section of the Austrian Alpine Club”)

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